Your customer service has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to facts, information, and skills. What the title of this blog refers to is one of the most valuable service tools I frequently mention: knowledge management. Knowledge management takes the wisdom of your customer service team and others – other departments, customers, and more – to deliver a constantly-evolving library of solutions. A more complete definition of knowledge management can be found in this Wikipedia article. For customer service, the advantages of subscribing to knowledge management are clear.
Taking things up a notch is Knowledge Centered Support (or KCS). Turning again to Wikipedia, KCS is defined as a method of delivering service where proven solutions to problems take a central role in the organization – striving for the best practices in knowledge management. The Consortium for Service Innovation, a non-profit alliance of service and support organizations, began developing this standard in 1992.
With the definitions and history lesson behind us, let’s dig into why using knowledge in your service organization is especially important and the benefits it provides.
Every day, your customer service agents are responding to questions and problems. Some of those are the same question, over and over, and some are new – brand new issues or at least new to that agent. If the agent is working as an island, they might struggle to address these “new-to-them” problems that have already been diagnosed and resolved by a colleague.
The best practice here is to create knowledge articles as problems are solved. Author, verify, and publish these solutions as soon as possible so that other agents (and your customers) benefit. Don’t forget to use keywords and tags (as well as synonyms) to build robust indexes and make searches effortless.
Following closely behind speed is consistency. Perhaps a solution only works when delivered in a step-by-step process. Beyond that, it also addresses how you want a problem to be solved. The best example is a policy-related issue: in a given situation, do you want to provide a refund or replacement? How should the replacement be shipped? While exceptions might be necessary for some circumstances, knowledge can help drive a steady and coherent approach to all aspects of your customer service.
A KCS approach to service is only going to succeed if it’s resourced. However, even if you can’t dedicate staff to the work of knowledge curation, you can utilize offline time. While a common rule doesn’t exist in terms of how long you should expect an agent to be engaged with customers on a daily basis without affecting the quality of service they deliver (or burning them out), my experience running a contact center showed that a full eight hours of active engagement was too much. We provided dedicated off-phone time each day for research and training, including creation and editing of knowledge articles.
Knowledge bases must well well-maintained to remain effective. There is a beginning, but no end: products and services come and go, policies change, and so on. Your knowledge content must evolve based upon need, demand, and use. Analyze customer cases to determine what are common topics in your contact center and where the gaps exist. In addition, ask your agents – trends develop rapidly.
Key Self-Service Component
This last benefit is typically a key reason organizations invest in knowledge in the first place. This same engine powering your live customer service organization can provide the solutions anytime and anywhere online to your customers. In fact, Forrester states in their 2017 trends “customer service will continue to invest in structured knowledge management … to extend the reach of curated content.”
As with your customer service agents, knowledge articles must be easy for customers to locate. The use of keywords, tags, and synonyms is especially important here because they might not share the same terminology as your customer service team. Likewise, be innovative: outside of explicit knowledge searches by customers, insert knowledge article suggestions into your chat, email, and case submission processes – one of those results might solve the problem in-the-moment and deflect the need for a live agent to respond.
If you aren’t using knowledge today, isn’t it time you considered? And if you are using knowledge, are you periodically measuring the effectiveness of its use?
Bringing knowledge into your customer service organization delivers many benefits, but recognize the cost and responsibility involved: it requires constant care and attention. That said, the investment will pay off in dividends, with faster, consistent service; a new, offline personal development opportunity for your service agents; and cost-savings as a result of customers using knowledge for self-service.